Terry Ball RA

I heard the news far too late to get to the funeral. I was doing one of things I love best: teaching practical survey and I was too far from Suffolk to get there in time.

I owe Terry a great deal and, as is the way of these things, I never got to thank him for what he did for me.

As a young surveyor fresh out of College with my shiny new diploma I thought I knew it all (or at least conciderably more than the combined survey section of the drawing office at AMDO at the time) Terry gave me the chance to build a career and opened the door to a world of wonder: he showed me how conservation is a process that feeds on carefully  gathered information that grows from the love of people for what they do.

This plate hung on the wall of Terry’s office and when the time came for me to take the reins I treasured it as a symbol of continuity. Unlike the tools of our trade the plate seemed to speak of art, permanance and its survival suggested a degree of care for the fragile that was often forgotten in an institution where organisational power struggles debased the excellence of our work.

Terry was a very humble man, sometimes to the point of servility, his knowledge was vast but he rarely pushed his expertise on others and, despite his obvious frustrations with those around him, preferred to engender a relaxed and permissive office in which the conversation ranged wide and long: Terry’s Drawing Office was my University.

When things unraveled for us and the Drawing Office was banished to Swindon, as we packed decades of accumulated requisition forms, field notes, photographs, drawing instruments and plan chests of exquisite work, I got my senior draughtsman to go over the list of the keepers of the plate, we were rushed and I never got the dates but this is the slip of paper that is folded behind the plate:

I, as office manager at the time,  took this plate and hung it on the wall of my office as a reminder that I should pass it on to my sucessor. There never was one.  The drawing office was axed and me along with it on the 1st of January 2010. Our work was done and the plate is stuck with me.

In ‘Between the wars’ Billy Bragg barks out the line: Call up the draughtsmen, bring me the craftsmen and build me a path from cradle to grave. It rings in my ears. We did our bit and some of our skills live on. Rest in peace Terry.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/mar/22/terry-ball-obituary

About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
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